Tristar Gym head coach Firas Zahabi weighed in on the outcome of a hypothetical rematch between Conor McGregor and Max Holloway, and McGregor unsurprisingly wasted little time in responding.
McGregor and Holloway locked horns as up-and-coming featherweights at UFC Fight Night 26 back in August 2013, where “The Notorious” got the better of his younger opponent on the night, winning by unanimous decision. The fight was notable for McGregor’s in-cage adaptation; he suffered a knee injury early on and thereafter leaned on takedowns and top control to win the fight, rather than his customary kick-heavy striking game.
Since that first meeting, the pair have gone on to achieve extraordinary feats in the Ultimate Fighting Championship with McGregor winning the featherweight title, then moving up to lightweight and defeating Eddie Alvarez to take his title and become the first simultaneous two-division champ in UFC history. Meanwhile, Holloway has remained undefeated since that night, winning 13 straight and capturing the featherweight title once held by McGregor.
Zahabi, who is well-known as an analyst as well as the coach of such standouts as Georges St. Pierre and Rory MacDonald, spoke about a potential rematch between the pair on a recent ‘ask me anything’ session on YouTube. Zahabi claimed the blueprint to beat McGregor is there for everyone to see and that Holloway would get the better of the Irishman if they fought again.
“If I had to pick Max Holloway vs. McGregor today, I would pick Max Holloway,” Zahabi said. "I think Holloway has grown leaps and bounds since then. In my opinion, Holloway would outpunch him, outwork him. He would do very much what Nate Diaz did, but more. I think McGregor got away with a lot of stuff, like the leg kicks against Diaz, but I don’t think he’ll have that against Holloway.
“Holloway has the same type of output as Diaz, the same kind of chin as Diaz,” Zahabi added. “He’s more athletic than Diaz, he has more variety in his attacks, he has more kicking, kneeing and elbowing, and his chin is just phenomenal. So I really think he would take it in the later rounds. I think the blueprint for beating McGregor is more well understood by the roster.”
Zahabi expressed his belief that it wouldn’t be a one-sided fight but whether they fought at featherweight or lightweight, the Hawaiian would win six or seven times out of ten.
“There’ll be a lot of striking of course, but there’s going to be a lot of clinching. I think that early in the striking McGregor wins, but later, it shifts all the way to Holloway,” Zahabi said. “He’s got better conditioning, better durability. The grappling is gonna be on Holloway’s side -- the clinch work, the knees, the elbows, the tie-ups. I think Holloway will start outworking and will outpace him to the point where McGregor is going to slow down.
“I like McGregor early, round one or round two, but after that, three, four, five, I think that’s going to belong to Holloway,” he added. “Even one of the first two rounds could belong to Holloway. I really think Holloway now is in his prime, and it’s going to be very, very difficult to beat him.”
Zahabi’s prediction elicited a dismissive reply from the Irishman who blasted the “twerp” Zahabi on Twitter:
Hey firaz. Young man afraid to get in and fight, himself. Stop talking about me like you know me, you twerp.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 9, 2019
You are what age? Why are not in there yourself? Are you not up to it?
You rent dorms and hit a clock for a living.
Shut your pie, kid.